Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Is anyone up for the challenge?

In our consumeristic society no one really wants to be challenged anymore. People want the simplest, schlokiest crap handed to them to devour on a silver platter... or more accurately, a paper plate. Needless to say, this attitude bleeds over into church life. It seems that more and more anything that challenges people in their faith and life is cause for them to leave the church or drift into the "inactive" slot. Anglicans of the "continuing" variety can have an especially hard time with this.

When we wonder why our churches are often so small part of it has to do with the fact that our worship is very demanding. The liturgy of the Prayer Book and related service books, such and the missals, requires a level of concentration, biblical knowledge, and cultural appreciation that is extremely rare these days. Add to that kneeling, saying the responses, standing and sitting, and all of the rest of it, and what I suggest is that a lot of people just don't feel like putting in the effort. It is too much work. And God help you if you try to sing some new hymns and/or service music! It is amazing how many people know almost the entire catalogue of the Beatles and yet they balk when a new hymn or tune is used, or if a Mass setting other than "Willan" or "Merbecke" is used. This is another example of spiritual laziness. Add to that good, solid biblical teaching (whether in sermons, adult studies, or newsletters) and even more people will go. Where do they end up? If they have any level of commitment to Christ and his Church they might migrate to megachurches for a big sloppy plate of "Religious Entertainment." But more often than not they just stay home, proving that they were never converted to begin with.

Our answer to this should be to just keep on keeping on. The worst thing in the world to do in my opinion is alter our worship and traditions so as to appeal to the hoi poloi. This is always a lose-lose proposition. If we challenge people spiritually, those who are up for the challenge will grow in their faith and in knowledge and love of God. I have seen this in my own parish. I have also seen how much the liturgy of the church has improved - the singing especially - when the people have been stretched and challenged to learn new hymns and communion services. (We sing the first, second, fourth, and eighth communion services throughout the course of the year.) From the improved liturgy I have seen a greater level of commitment to the ministry and mission of the church as well. Sure, you will lose some people if you challenge them, but that is between them and God. It is better to be faithful to God than to man.

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